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Significant increase in 'killing civilians' by BSF men in WB border districts: NHRC told

Counterview Desk 

Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), and national convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission has alleged that a poor marginalized youth Bikash Debnath, of Cooch Behar district, West Bengal, died after Border Security Force (BSF) personnel's "continuous tortured him for three hours".
He say, "Incidents of killing civilians by the BSF force have significantly increased in the bordering districts of the state of West Bengal in the past few years. This case also adding the list of murders in BSF’s custody where the higher official and police administration with a nexus tries to save the perpetrators.

Text:

This is to bring to your kind attention an incident of brutal killing of a poor marginalized youth namely Bikash Debnath from Uttar Chamta village under Sitai Block and Police Station in the district of Cooch Behar, by the perpetrator BSF personnel attached with Battalion number 75 of Koimari border outpost.
The victim was forcefully apprehended by the perpetrators BSF on duty, and continuous tortured him for three hours. Later his body was recovered from Indo Bangladesh border side. It is a clear case of murder in custody of BSF on duty.
Sitai Police took the body of the victim to the Sitai Block Hospital where the victim was declared as brought dead. Without doing inquest, the dead body of the victim was taken to Sitai Police Station and there the inquest was done by one police person of Sitai Police Station and one executive magistrate which was violated section 174 and 176 (1) (a) of the Criminal Procedure Code.
There were several injury marks in the body of the deceased observed by the family members and eye witnesses. Even they observed scratch marks in the land where the victim was beaten to death by the BSF personnel.
On December 12, 2021 in the evening the family members lodged one written complaint to the Sitai Police Station against BSF for the death of the victim. The then on duty police officer took the written complaint but did not provide any received copy to the victim’s family. No case was registered by the Police on that time.
On the next day from the GR section we received the information that one case was registered by the police vide Sitai Polife Station case number 198/21 dated December 12, 2021 under section 302. But in the FIR copy police did not mention the details of the accused just only mentioned ‘unknown persons’. No signature or thumb impression of the complainant was received in the FIR copy. In the complaint copy attach with FIR there is no specific allegation against the BSF authority.
We have an apprehension that police with the nexus of BSF made a fabricated complaint and took the signature of Biseswar Debnath, elder brother of the victim who is also an illiterate person.
This violates section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and apex court guidelines in the case of Lalita Kumari vs State of Uttar Pradesh [WP (Crl) 68 of 2008] which clearly states that immediate registration of First Information Report is mandatory under section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure if the information discloses commission of a cognizable offence and provide the copy of the FIR to the complainant free of cost.
As the police personnel of Sitai Police Station did not take any action in this respect, on January 17, 2022, Khageswar Debnath, father of the deceased sent one written complaint to the Superintendent of Police, Cooch Behar.
Salient points in this case:
  • It is a case of death due to torture in custody of BSF under Battalion number 75 of Koimari Border Out Post.
  • Guidelines framed and circulated by NHRC in case of custodial death on March 27, 1997 was not followed by police personnel of Sitai Police Station and local civil administration.
  • Supreme Court of India in various cases, laid down norms to be followed in case of cognizable offence like custodial death; such as, immediate register of FIR, investigation by CID or police team of another police station led by a senior officer, etc. which was not followed here.
  • Why judicial Magistrate was not done the inquest of the victim as for custodial death any judicial magistrate should inquest the body?
  • Why the inquest was not done in the Sitai Block Hospital where the victim was declared dead?
  • Why the duty officer of the Sitai Police Station did not register the written complaint of the family members of the victim at first?
  • Why in the FIR copy police omitted the specific allegation of the BSF?
  • Till date place of incidents, witnesses, family members were not examined; scratch in the earth of the place of incidence, hair, fibbers were not collected.
  • The case of killing of human within Cooch Behar district is not only this one. Even under the Sitai Police Station jurisdiction area this is not a first killing done by BSF. In each case of killing, BSF and investigating police including civil administration nexus throttled the throat of criminal justice system.
  • This case manifests systematic impunity in our state of West Bengal.
It must be mentioned that incidents of killing civilians by the BSF have significantly increased in the bordering districts of the state of West Bengal in the past few years. This case also adding the list of murders in BSF’s custody where the higher official and police administration with a nexus tries to save the perpetrators.
The perpetrator BSF personnel not only violated the rights guaranteed in Article 21 of Indian Constitution but also the premise of Article 7 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the Goal number 8 and 16 of Sustainable Development Goal earmarked by United Nations and in both these international instruments; the government of India is a party and have agreement.
The incident and subsequent impunity legitimize our long standing demand for immediate ratification of United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment.
Hence I seek your urgent intervention in this present complaint with the following demands of justice to the family of the victim:
  • BSF should be posted in actual border and not inside the villages.The whole incident must be investigated by a neutral agency appointed by the Commission.
  • This unlawful death should be properly investigated in line with Minnesota Protocol.
  • The unnatural death case initiated by Sitai Police Station on December 12, 2021 must be investigated properly under the appropriate legal provision.
  • The administration must take appropriate steps to control cross border smuggling in bordering villages.
  • The guilty BSF personnel involved in killing in custody must be booked and prosecuted in open court of law; not under in camera proceedings where accused, prosecutor and judge are brothers.
  • Disciplinary action should be initiated against the then on duty police personnel of Sitai Police Station who without doing the inquest in the place where the victim was declared dead, taking the victim’s dead body to the Sitai Police Station.
  • We have an apprehension that police with the nexus of BSF made fabricated the original written complaint of the victim’s family. Therefore, immediate steps to be taken to record the statements of the victim’s family members by one judicial magistrate under section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
  • Police personnel involved in fabricating the victim’s complaint should be immediately charged with section 192 and 201 of the Indian Penal Code.
  •  The family of the victim must be duly compensated and security and safety of the witnesses and family members must be ensured.

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